I have taken more than 2,100 online English lessons (1,050 hours) over the past three years and met more than 1,000 online English teachers.
Most of the teachers are ‘adequate’ – good teachers, who are punctual, polite, and friendly. I have no reason to complain about them and rather enjoy their lessons. However, despite many of them being good teachers, it is difficult to remember what they were like individually, because sometimes they do not have ‘outstanding’ characteristics to distinguish them. These aspect also applies to students. Can you remember all the students you’ve taught?
But on rare occasions, I have come across extraordinary teachers who are obviously ‘a cut above the rest’. They may not have film star good looks or scintillating wit, but nevertheless their lessons remain vivid in my memory, and I want to book classes with them again and again. So – what makes them stand out from other teachers?
This time, let me try to summarize the characteristics of particularly outstanding teachers and the lessons they provide.
I hope that all of you who are currently teaching English online can use this article as a reference to improve your lessons even further.
Please note that what is written here is my personal opinion and is not representative of all Japanese students.
First of all, I will explain what kind of student I am.
Let’s start by taking a look at the characteristics of the lessons that I found especially wonderful!
Giving better wording and more natural expressions
In a previous article I said, “A teacher who can make corrections is a good teacher,” but this takes it one step further!
When your student speaks, you may have noticed sentences that are grammatically correct but sound a little bit ‘stilted’. This occurs quite often but many teachers don’t correct the sentence because it’s ‘just a minor thing’. As a consequence, the student will continue to use the unnatural sentence in the future.
Which is really preferable – to leave the ‘odd-sounding’ sentence without saying anything, to avoid offending the student, or to provide the correct sentence so that it can be used in the future?
It is difficult for students to learn conversational expressions, because they do not appear in textbooks or formal listening materials – only in everyday life.
I know that my English is not perfect, so I am taking online lessons to build up my command of natural English through holding conversations. Therefore, I’d really appreciate it if you could give me better wording or more natural sounding expressions.
In addition, your ability to do this also proves that you have a high level of teaching skills and competent knowledge of English. We students are always on the lookout for a teacher with such skills!
Providing original materials
One of my on-line English teachers actually prepares all his own original lesson material ‘from scratch’! I don’t think anyone else could quite imitate his way of teaching, but I would love to introduce him here because he is a ‘one of a kind’ teacher. Even though his approach to tutorials is unique, I’m sure that what he does might give you many tips to improve your lessons in a number of ways.
As I said, he prepares his own original material every time he gives a tutorial. The topics cover various areas such as history, culture, literature and ‘old stories’. Not only is the material interesting to read, but it’s packed with new words, common phrases, idioms, and sometimes even slang. So you’ll never get bored!
Usually the material is based on what he has read and watched, and it’s all written from his point of view. He also adds lots of additional information and links to other resources.
Apart from enjoying reading the lesson itself, I can also improve my discussion skills because, like any other tutorial which uses the ‘official’ lesson material, he also asks frequent questions to check comprehension.
I can’t demand that all tutors should do this, but sometimes it’s good to pick up on something that you are interested in and to share with your students.
The “news article” is great material, but not every student is interested in it. At such times, if you can present some original material as an alternative, it may be a good opportunity to impress your students that you are a little different from other teachers.
Make full use of images and links
The materials provided by the on-line teaching company are basically easy to understand, but I often come across expressions that are difficult for me to comprehend. These are usually words that describe new products, rare animals, plants, or sometimes new technologies.
It is very difficult for me to see them clearly ‘in my mind’s eye’ just by listening to an English explanation. It would be much more helpful if the teacher provided an image of the object in the chat box, which would make subsequent lessons a lot easier to understand. “A picture speaks a thousand words”!
For example, can you imagine what the Japanese word “Wabi-sabi” means from the just reading the explanation below?
“In traditional Japanese aesthetics, wabi-sabi is a world view centered on the acceptance of transience and imperfection. The aesthetic is sometimes described as one of appreciating beauty that is “imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete” in nature. ”
[Quoted from Wikipedia]
From this explanation alone, it is by no means clear what “wabi-sabi” actually means! Now take a look at the pictures on this web page. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wabi-sabi
NOW, you can see what the expression “wabi-sabi” really does mean – by looking at the photos!
Images are a great help for students to grasp the meaning of an article. Also, it gives me a good impression! The teacher who takes the trouble to prepare links and information related to the lesson is taking my tutorial seriously!